If you have ever maintained a yard or garden for any period of time you have most likely encountered dandelions. It seems like just when everything else is looking good, there they are. You try to pull them just to find them popping us somewhere else. They sure can be annoying!
But did you know that many people consider the dandelion to be an herb and even a vegetable, not a weed? It’s true. The entire dandelion plant is edible—from the leaves to the flower to the roots. And dandelions have considerable health benefits due to their high levels of antioxidants and minerals including vitamins A, C, K, B complex, iron, calcium, manganese, zinc, and potassium.
The Many Health Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelion teas, juices, and tonics (Taraxacum officinale) have been used for centuries to help support different organs and systems in the body. Dandelions have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-rheumatic, and choleretic properties among many others.
The modern herbal monographs consider dandelion extract to be a safe medicinal plant.
Here are just a few of the well-studied health benefits of dandelions:
- Increases urination. Dandelion extract is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine as a diuretic. Studies show dandelion leaf extract can significantly increase urination to reduce bloating and water retention in the body. This is due in part to the fact that dandelion leaves contain up to nine compounds that are diuretic. Plus dandelion leaf contains high levels of magnesium and 3x more potassium than what is lost during diuresis. So, dandelion leaf may help you avoid electrolyte imbalance and provide a safer alternative to pharmaceutical diuretics that require supplemental potassium, magnesium, and electrolytes.
- Promotes healthy liver function. Another (TCM) use of dandelion root is as a liver cleanse and is often mixed with other herbs to fight jaundice, hepatitis and even cirrhosis. The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine states that dandelion root supports liver detoxification and increases bile production. Studies in animals show that dandelion leaf may also have a protective effect on the liver. Both the dandelion flower and root extracts contain lecithin—a liver detoxifier
- Fights COVID-19. In TCM dandelion extract is also used to treat upper respiratory illnesses including bronchitis and pneumonia. Now, a study shows that dandelion extract can prevent infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus by blocking the ACE2 receptors to which the spike proteins attach and the virus replicates. Dandelion extract was effective in stopping the spike proteins from attaching to lung and kidney cells, as well as inhibiting interleukin-6 secretion, an inflammatory process. The study found that dandelion leaf extract was effective against spike protein D614 and mutant strains including D614G, N501Y, K417N and E484K.
- Aids in weight loss. While the weight loss effect from dandelion is mostly due to its diuretic effect (and from a gentle laxative effect), dandelion leaf in particular has been shown to have potential as a weight loss aid. In animal studies, mice eating a high fat diet lost weight when given dandelion extract, which suppressed lipid accumulation in the liver. Another study showed dandelion extract inhibited lipase production, which in turn can help usher fat molecules out of the body.
- Supports healthy glucose metabolism. Dandelion root contains a complex carbohydrate known as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which is known to help normalize blood sugar levels. Studies show that FOS reduces hyperglycemia when used in high levels of water extract. It also has an impact on insulin secretion and sensitivity so it may help in the management of Type 2 diabetes.
- Targets drug-resistant cancer cells. A 2010 study showed dandelion root extract effectively causes apoptosis (cell death) in drug-resistant melanoma cells without causing toxicity in healthy cells. In addition, numerous case studies show that dandelion extract is useful in achieving remission in Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia. Other research shows promise in treating gastric, colorectal, pancreatic and liver cancers.
Four Easy Ways to Consume Dandelions
- Eat the leaves. Dandelion leaves are often found in spring salad mixes. When eaten raw they have an earthy, bitter flavor that is similar to endive. You can also sauté the leaves the way you would spinach or kale. Believe it or not the flower and the root are also edible.
- Drink dandelion tea. The root and the leaves can be made into tea. The recommended therapeutic dosage of dandelion leaf tea is 4–10 grams steeped in hot water up to 3 times per day according to European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy.
- Try a tincture. Tinctures are an easy way to get the benefits of the whole herb. You can purchase tinctures or make them from whole dandelions.
- Take a supplement. There are dandelion root and dandelion leaf supplements available. Do you research and try what appeals to you and your specific needs.
Who Should Not Consume Dandelion?
As with anything else, there are some people who would do better to avoid dandelion. Here are some instances in which you may want to pass on consuming any form of dandelion:
- Allergic to iodine. If you are allergic to iodine or any flowers in the ragweed family such as daisies, chrysanthemums, or marigolds, you may want to avoid dandelions.
- Taking certain prescription medications. Dandelion can interact with certain medications, including antacids, anticoagulants, lithium, ciprofloxacin, anti-diabetic drugs, and diuretics. Also, because dandelion is a diuretic it can speed up the elimination of any drug from your body. If you’re on any medications, speak to your healthcare provider before consuming dandelion.
Have you tried dandelion extract? What was your experience